I liked a Times reporter saying they now have to launch a investigation into their opinions department to find out who wrote the essay :-p
That internal directive is along the lines of what I thought of as “journalistic ethics.” Especially since it’s not good to burn a journalist’s sources.
I can see that, but does it violate “journalistic ethics” if one reported discovers another’s source? I don’t know.
If the Opinion Department participated and helped the News Department discover who the author was (which would be pretty easy considering that they know already who it is), THAT would violate “journalistic ethics.” But again, News and Opinion have no contact with each other. Does it violate journalistic ethics if a reporter at the NYT burns or reveals a source at the Washington Post?
Ok, just one more of these.
It’s a complicated issue, and it may require a lot of thought.
One thing to keep in mind is if a particular person or organization reveals a source, said source will be less likely to cooperate with journalists in the future, either for the burning organization, or in general.
For example, let’s pretend Joey Joe-joe Shabbadoo (JJS for short) is the anonymous opinion writer at the NYT. If he is revealed by the NYT, even outside the opinion section, then it becomes very likely he will refuse to work with the NYT ever again, and hence they lose a potentially valuable source, assuming that in the future he’s still in a position where he could provide valuable information, in or outside the Trump admin. He also will be fired, meaning you can’t get any more useful information on the Trump admin from him.
If the Washington Post somehow reveals JJS’s identity, well, in addition to him losing access, he may no longer wish to be a source to anyone at all in the future, even in roles outside the Trump admin, because he’ll feel he cannot trust reporters to keep his identity private.
I’m not a journalist, but from what I’ve read and heard in interviews with prominent journalists (coincidentally I listened to one this morning on Preet Bharara’s podcast), revealing sources is an absolute no-no. At most, a journalist may share sources with fellow journalists, especially if they work for the same organization, but they will never make them public. There also have been numerous occasions where journalists, supported by their organizations, have gone to prison in order to not reveal their sources.
I’m well aware why it’s bad for a news agency to reveal the identity of their sources. I also understand why reporters and news agencies would want to protect their confidential sources and that many reporters have gone to prison for not revealing a source.
But having said all that, I don’t think “journalistic ethics” would prevent one reporter from discovering the source of another reporter’s article, especially if it was done without help.
In the current situation, I would have to imagine that when the NYT’s Opinion Editor was talking to, or communicating with, the author of the Op-Ed piece, the Opinion Editor would be obligated to explain that the News and Opinion sections at the NYT are separate and that there might be a situation where one part of the Times was investigating who the author was, even as another part was trying to protect his or her identity.
I firmly believe the writer is trying to rehabilitate the GOP and set themselves up as a “reasonable” conservative for the post-Trump era.
I don’t believe reasonable conservatives exist. But I do believe that is their goal.
Well, sure, they can discover who the source is, of course. The ethics would come in if the reporter decides to publicly reveal the source. Going back to JJS being the author of the op-ed, let’s assume everyone’s favorite mild-mannered reporter, Clark Kent, manages to independently figure out that he is the author.
JJS (picks up phone): Hello?
CK: Hi, this is Clark Kent from the Daily Planet. I believe you’re the author of the NYT op-ed on undermining Trump. Is this correct?
CK: Don’t worry, this will just be between you and me. I won’t make it public. I’m just building out my own sources.
JJS: Oh, umm, okay. Yes it was me.
This is probably fine from an “ethics” point of view. Where it breaks down is if the next day’s front page of the Daily Planet says, “Joey Joe-joe Shabbaddoo Revealed as Author of NYT Op-Ed.” That’s where the problem would lie.
I don’t think anyone is trying to dispute that. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that’s what the writer is trying to do.
To use your own example, before anything else, Clark Kent would first have to to establish if the conversation was on the record or not. If it wasn’t, then no, the Daily planet would probably not publish who JJS was. If the conversation was on the record, Clark Kent would never promise to not make JJS’s identity public. Why else would Clark Kent contact JJS in the first place if not to write an article about who the author of the Op-Ed was?
Edited to add: I’m sure @Churba could chime in and give us a professional’s view of the situation.
Hence, I want them outed. It’ll be glorious if it’s Pence.
Obviously I can’t know this with 100% certainty, but I’m very very sure that the identity of the Op-Ed’s author will come out eventually, and probably sooner rather than later.
That being said, it’s probably not Pence. It would be career suicide if it was him.
Lawrence O’Donnell thinks that it’s Dan Coats, and he makes a fairly reasonable argument for his guess.
Dan Coats has already denied that it’s him.
It was an over-simplified conversation, of course. As for why Clark Kent would contact JJS if not to make his identify public, it’s simple. Clark Kent also wants sources to write his articles. JJS is potentially a valuable source that he could turn to when he’s writing his own articles about the administration. Outing JJS would torpedo that opportunity for him and any other journalists out there.
Supposedly they are trying to turn to linguistic analysis to determine who the author is.
It’s also not Pence. Pence is in bed with everything going on here pretty much from the get-go. He was pretty much hand-picked by Manafort to be the VP. He’s already in hot enough water and he’s not going to do jack to get fired (can the VP be fired?) or otherwise annoy Trump as he knows where the bodies are buried and vice versa.
If Clark Kent contacted JJS about anything other than trying to discover the identity of the Op-Ed author, he wouldn’t include JJS’s identify in his article or even his notes. No one would know that JJS was the author because Clark Kent wouldn’t tell them. Maybe, at some point in the future, when Clark Kent was writing an entirely different article and used JJS as a source, maybe then he might tell his editors, but I find it highly improbably that (1) Clark Kent would just tell his editors who JJS was if it was unrelated to what he was working on, and (2) that Kent’s Editors would completely undermine him by publishing an article “outing” JJS, because that would probably violate journalistic ethic.
This I agree with 100%. Also, if it was Pence, it would torpedo his chances of becoming president after Trump because while the GOP might not like Trump, and might be trying to rehabilitate their image, the Republican base LOVES him. If Pence turned on Trump, the Republican base would destroy him electorally.
Very timely piece from Margaret Sullivan, the former Public Editor of the New York Times, and now a columnist for the Washington Post:
"But what happens at that moment when Maggie Haberman or one of her colleagues nails down the name? Now that’s a story that, in the newsroom vernacular, has to be “lawyered.”
And I don’t believe for a minute that it would be held back or spiked. It would run — and again, heads would explode.
Jonathan Peters of the University of Georgia School of Law (and the press-freedom correspondent of the Columbia Journalism Review) predicted that “this would be a messy case” if one of the parties (the writer, presumably) decided to sue the paper for breaching confidentiality.
The First Amendment, he said, doesn’t bar legal action against a media company whose journalists make and break a promise of confidentiality. Whether the wall between opinion and news would be legally recognized in such a case, though, isn’t well-established.
That sort of suit seems unlikely, but we are fully in the weirdness zone, so you never know…
As for the knotty journalistic dilemma in reporting on the author, I can only hope — for the sake of the New York Times, of course — that The Washington Post breaks the story."
It’s from someone in the White House, who is totally fine with mainstream conservative brutality (ICE immigration policy, etc) but at the same time isn’t on board with the lunacy of Canadian trade wars, Also it’s from someone who is expecting to have a political career Post-Trump.
If it is Pence, he’s expecting not to get caught.
Not to nitpick, but it doesn’t have to be someone inside the White House. Senior Administration Official can apply to a wide range of people, which is exactly why it was used.
Actually, the article was pretty fuzzy as to which of Trump’s policies he’s okay with vs. not okay with. We don’t know how he feels about ICE brutality. For a lot of conservatives, while they support the idea of a deportation force, the specifics of ICE’s tactics were well beyond acceptable. About the only ones we know for sure are the tax cuts, deregulation, and increased military spending, which are all admittedly pretty universal among conservatives.